Women are pawns in the Syrian war.
That’s the conclusion of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, which just released a new report on the horrific sexual violence facing the people of Syria.
It documents an astounding array of atrocities. And it highlights the way Syrian government forces, under the control of Bashar al-Assad, have systematically used rape and sexual violence as a tool to victimize and humiliate its perceived enemies.
The stories in the report, written after interviews with more than 450 people, document a terrifying and systematic pattern of sexual abuse by the government during house raids, at checkpoints and in detention centers.
Rape and sexual humiliation weren’t a bug of the system — they were a feature, designed to break combatants and destroy the structures of family life….
The worst abuse, however, was reserved for the girls and women in detention. As the report explains, “thousands of women and girls were also apprehended, including female lawyers, journalists and activists expressing anti-Government sentiments. Large numbers of female relatives of men perceived to be opposition supporters, or suspected of belonging to armed groups, were also arbitrarily detained.”
For those girls and women — some as young as 9 years old — there was a parade of horrors: Pregnant women were raped. At least one interviewee miscarried as a result….
There are accounts of sexual violence against women from armed groups too. But the report finds that that was sporadic, or at least not part of an organized campaign.